It was very interesting this week to be reading about how the internet and video games relate to navigable space. I thought it was particularly intriguing to think about video games and how they’re similar to the classic American story of exploring a frontier. While I’ve always thought of video games as an act of exploration and character development, I’ve never perceived any connection between them and written literature. In my mind, I’ve thought of narrative in video games and written narrative as separate things, but this chapter has now blurred that distinction for me. I suppose I’ve always had a bias (because of the visual nature of video games) to compare games to movies, but definitely not books.
Another section that I enjoyed reading was toward the end where Manovich talks about how our interactions with computerized data and media have consistently been framed in spatial terms. The names of the two most popular browsers at the time tie in perfectly into this argument. He discusses how Netscape Navigator alludes to the navigating flâneur of Baudelaire while Internet Explorer refers to exploration. Like with video games, Manovich’s distinction between the French flâneur and the American explorer makes me think of internet navigation/exploration in a new light. For example, social media didn’t exist when Manovich wrote this text (at least not in the way that it does today), but it applies perfectly to the idea of the flâneur navigating a crowd. I can navigate through Facebook profiles in very much the same way that I can navigate through a crowd. Moreover, a Facebook poke could be the modern split-second virtual affair. There is also an element of exploration to Facebook too though. Exploring profiles involves entering unknown territory that over time creates a mental map of social networks. Such navigation is systematic and like games, involves larger and larger territories. I’d be curious to see where else these distinctions would apply in a Web 2.0 world.